Sir Keir Starmer grilled about Labour’s tax plans as Boris Johnson returns to the fray ...The Standard podcast

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he agreed with Sir Tony Blair on the definition of a woman (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he agreed with Sir Tony Blair on the definition of a woman (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

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Our Chief Political Correspondent Rachael Burford dissects Keir Starmer’s performance on LBC, and considers whether Boris Johnson’s set to make a comeback.

Plus, Senior Feature Writer Katie Strick talks us through the juiciest revelations from Tom Bower’s House of Beckham book.

Here’s an automated transcript:

From London, I'm Jon Weeks, and this is The Standard.

Coming up on today's show, our senior feature writer Katie Strick talks us through the juiciest revelations from Tom Bower's new book, House of Beckham.

But first, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has faced a grilling over his tax plans on LBC.

During the session this morning, he failed to rule out any tax rises over the next five years, if he does become Prime Minister.

He was also challenged on his plans to resolve the Israel-Gaza conflict, VAT on private school fees and Brexit.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, Boris Johnson has re-emerged, this time with a social media video endorsing the Tory candidate, Alice Hopkin, while urging the electorate to avoid handing Labour the majority to, as he said, take the country backwards with higher taxes and more wokery.

So does this signal a potential return for the former PM?

And has Keir Starmer's LBC appearance given him a boost?

Joining me now is our chief political correspondent, Rachael Burford.

So Rachael, overall, was it a sort of net positive appearance for the Labour leader on LBC this morning?

Yeah, so I mean, Keir Starmer's only sort of plan at the moment is do not mess up.

20 points ahead in the polls.

All he's got to do is really just make sure that he doesn't do or say anything that will put large amounts of voters off at this point.

So, you know, these things like these LBC phone ins, I think you see sometimes people like Nick Ferrari, who was hosting it, get a little bit frustrated perhaps with some of the questions he wasn't giving direct answers to.

But I mean, that's part being a politician and Keir Starmer's whole thing at the moment is just let's not mess up.

I'm 20 points ahead of the polls.

I could be prime minister in less than three weeks time.

I've just got to get through this and get into number 10.

And speaking of messing up, do you think he was stumped or tripped up by any questions at any point?

So I think the big question that everyone wants to kind of pin him down on is this idea of tax.

Labour in the past has been a party that has, is sort of known perhaps for raising taxes on people.

They have really stuck to this line, Keir Starmer and Rachael Reeves, that we do not plan to raise taxes on working people.

That is their stock line.

And we've totally ruled out in the next parliament, increasing income tax, increasing national insurance or increasing VAT.

That's not gonna happen.

They say that their plans are fully funded and they are going to get the bulk of the money through things like growth and boosting the economy.

And they will not have to raise taxes on working people.

However, he was sort of pinned down a little bit on this idea of council tax.

There's been a lot of questions about what Labour's gonna do about council tax and whether that will be a sort of sneaky tax rise that does come through in the next parliament.

They've, Keir Starmer sort of failed to totally rule it out.

I think he said, look, I'm not gonna sit here and lay out five years of fiscal policy two weeks before the election.

But it is something that there has been a lot of questions about and some people are quite worried about.

Because council tax obviously has been going up quite significantly over the last five years or so.

The amount you pay varies wildly where you live in the country.

And it's not based on how much you earn.

It's based on sort of these very old ideas of what your house was worth in 1991.

So you'd be placed in anything that was worth 40,000 pounds or less in 1991 is placed in the lowest band, Band A.

And anything that was worth over more than 320,000 in 1991 is based in the band H, which is the highest band.

And obviously property prices have exploded since then across the country, particularly in cities like London.

So you've got people paying very low council tax who are living in these, you know, very nice spanky London flats and people that are paying quite significant sums in, you know, who are living in sort of estates in places like Redcar and Bishop Auckland and things.

So I think there has been a lot of questions about what the party's gonna do about that.

And he was sort of pressed on that quite a bit this morning. And it makes sense, doesn't it Rachael?

Cause as you say, tax seems to be the big buzzword at the moment for all parties, really.

Largely, I guess, due to cost of living.

But what other sort of key subjects or key promises did Sir Keir Starmer make?

Yeah, so obviously we've got some taxes a big issue because we've got the highest tax burden we've ever had.

And there is a huge cost of living crisis, but also at the same time, public services are crumbling.

So it does need to be a point where political parties are honest about it and say, look, we have to raise taxes here, we can lower them there and things like that.

And Labour has, to be fair to them, tried to sort of do that in some places.

You know, they're getting rid of the VAT cut on private school fees and things like that.

So they have sort of had those policies in place.

What he did sort of lay out in the LBC interview was those other things that he sort of talked about.

He committed to, for example, safe spaces, single sex spaces and things like hospitals and sports facilities for women.

That was something that the party has been pressed on in the past as well.

A few months ago, you'd often see Keir Starmer being asked to define a woman and things like that.

So that was quite a big sort of issue for some of the voters that called in as well.

And of course, we're just over two weeks ago until the general election vote, Rachael. It's gonna be busy around politics.

And for the conservatives, I understand Boris Johnson has made a sort of return to the fray with a video message on social media.

What has he said?

And does this mean he's coming back to back for the Tories?

Well, yes.

So, I mean, postal votes have already started arriving.

So we will start getting votes out this week, basically, from now.

But yes, Boris Johnson has sort of made an appearance, kind of, on the campaign trail.

He's produced a video message for a candidate in West Yorkshire.

And he is, it's interesting, the video message actually, he's sort of warning against a labour supermajority, which is kind of reinforcing this idea that the Tories know that they've lost this election, but they're trying to do damage limitation.

They're sort of saying, oh, look, don't give Keir Starmer this huge majority, help us out a little bit.

Which I think a lot of ministers have kind of denied on the campaign trail, but then also sort of you've had people like Grant Schapp saying, talking about this labour supermajority, and now you've got Boris Johnson talking about it.

Boris Johnson has produced letters for some candidates as well, saying vote for them.

He's backing them.

I don't think he'll be making any physical appearances on the campaign trail this week because his wife Carrie posted some photos on Instagram of them on holiday in Sardinia.

So I don't know if he'll be flying back from his Italian holidays to be knocking on doors for any particular Tory candidate, especially in Yorkshire.

But yes, his face has popped up and he's started to back some candidates.

Obviously, he won the huge majority in 2019.

He's seen as still, I suppose, a popular figure in the Tory party and with voters, with some voters.

So he is being welcomed back by some of the candidates.

Let's take a quick break now.

In part two, The Juiciest Revelations from Tom Bower's House of Beckham book with Katie Strick.

It's a tell-all biography, I suppose, that has been much anticipated now for many, many months.

Welcome back, I'm now joined by senior feature writer, Katie Strick, who's been pouring through the pages of Tom Bower's new book, House of Beckham.

So Katie, first of all, what is this book all about?

Obviously, the name is a bit of a giveaway, but I guess what route does it go down in the lives of the Beckhams’?

So yeah, the name does give a lot of it away.

It's a tell-all biography, I suppose, that has been much anticipated now for many, many months.

It lands on bookshelves this Thursday, and it promises to be a study of the Beckhams' marriage, or at least it's all focusing on their love story, their relationship.

So it features everything from allegations of David Beckham's supposed infidelity to some quite entertaining anecdotes about Glastonbury and family photo shoots for Vogue and various sort of colorful details from over there, 27, I think it is, years together.

So it's written by Tom Bower, who is a former BBC panorama reporter who's turned into a celebrity biographer over recent years.

So he's written biographies on everyone from Muhammad Al Fayed to Simon Cowell.

And yeah, it certainly doesn't hold back on painting the couple of this, I guess, how he sees it, ghastly sort of vain power hungry pair.

And commentators say it does definitely risk denting this great British power brand that is Posh and Beck's and their reputation.

But we will see what the public makes of it.

So what's the goss then, Katie?

What were the biggest revelations from this book?

It's interesting. It's hard to pick out.

I think different allegations will speak to different people.

I mean, there's certainly lots of juice and it goes straight in on an anecdote about David Beckham's visit to Glastonbury in 2007 in chapter one.

So he talks all about this wild night out he supposedly had with his best mate, Dave Gardner and the socialite Mary Charteris and how Victoria was landing the following day after this night out and apparently arrived and sent out a search party to David, who sort of did eventually appear and within seconds they were embroiled in this ferocious argument.

So he gets straight to the juice, to the detail, to the things everyone wants right at the beginning.

And that's a new anecdote.

The rest of the book is a mix of a lot of stuff that I think many of us who've been following the Beckham story, and it's hard not to, will probably have heard over the years, but with quite a few extra details thrown in.

So it sounds quite different to the recent documentary about the Beckhams that was on Netflix.

Overall, does it paint them in a positive or a negative light?

You can probably guess from miles and so far that it does paint them in a very negative light.

I think people either love the Beckhams or hate the Beckhams and that's not something that's probably going to change too much here.

There is talk of whether this book could dent their reputation and who knows, but to be honest, I think one of the biggest comments about this book so far isn't how it reflects on the Beckhams, but how it reflects on the author, Tom Bower.

So his book has been accused of being this sort of masterclass in insinuation is what one reviewer put and essentially being a roundup of tabloid fodder, sort of street gossip over the years that he's attempted to stand up obviously with lots of interviews with people and lots of research, but there was one quite entertaining review that said that ChatGPT could have really done the whole thing faster and that he's just regurgitating what's already out there.

So perhaps it lacks much in the way of fresh detail compared to what people were expecting.

Again, it probably depends how much you've read on the Beckhams before, how much you've been following the tabloids over the last few decades and what you choose to believe in the Netflix documentary and what you don't.

Pick up The Evening Standard newspaper for more news, interviews and analysis or head to

Thanks for listening.

We're back tomorrow afternoon at 4 o'clock.